I like the way this article in the NY Times described a requirement to be successful as a franchisee:
For someone who really has a passion for managing a process, though, investing in franchises can be so lucrative that that extra spark [entrepreneurship] may not matter.
I’ve heard several franchisors speak at the National Restaurant Association conferences and have worked with others as their attorney, and some failure and poor sales is attributed to failure to “follow the system”. I’m sure the franchisees would disagree, but I believe there is on some level truth in this failure to “follow the system” particularly in regards to marketing/sampling, cleaning and training.
“Following the system” is a little misleading though, because most of the franchisees technically are following the book, but the passionate and efficient execution is not there by the franchisee and their staff. Are the work areas and customer areas always clean even if you are following the operation manual’s cleaning schedule of “every 20 minutes walk through” of the dining area? Is the customer service respectful and prompt? Is the quality of product or service at least meeting the expectations of the customer? Is security monitored and threatening enough to ensure customers and staff are not stealing?
I would also add that franchisees need to be leaders. They must be able to handle the moment in front of customers and employees, run effective meetings, and be articulate motivators that can instill at least mild passion in staff to do the right thing. If you are meek and weak, you will be taken advantage of. But, don’t worry, it’s not you, it’s like that throughout the animal kingdom. But you probably shouldn’t be a franchisee.
Entrepreneurship requires the above traits as well. But, innovation is the element a franchisee is not empowered to really drive (it’s controlled by the franchisor), BUT an entrepreneur is required to drive innovation to survive.